Graffiti, Rap, and Sexual Awakening: An Analysis of Dizzee Kipling
This was a paper written for a course I am taking in gender, sexuality, and media on how a character in television or film’s gender intersects with other identities. I chose Dizzee Kipling because he’s one of my faves from The Get Down and I felt this show does a really great job of exploring intersecting identities anyway. This analysis is about 8 pages in Word so if you read it, I totally love you! I’m really proud of this paper and had so much fun writing it!
Same thing, wrote for magazine but never got published. The Luhrmann article.
Just a lil background: I discovered /Romeo + Juliet (1996)/ when I was going through my Leonardo DiCaprio phase in 2012 or 2013. Wee little I, who had yet to discover how to t*rr*nt movies, would desperately look up clips from his movies on Youtube. The few actual clips that I found (most of the /R+J/ related videos on Youtube are edits with the central love theme or some other artsy love song playing in the background) were of the bathroom/elevator scene or the last scene in the chapel. (Unrelated: a couple days ago I saw something related to the chapel scene and had a dream of marrying Rose Byrne. It was wild. Moving on.) 12 year old me couldn’t stop watching the chapel scene over and over and over again. This may have something to do with Leonardo DiCaprio’s breathtakingly smoldering gaze and delicate jaw structure as he’s slowly walking up, but it also had to do with everything else. Anyone who’s seen the chapel scene knows what I’m talking about. The music that is desperate and calmy tragic but not forcefully building up, the warm yellow candlelight around them a contrast to the harsh blue neon lights, the moment we see Juliet’s eyes open and we’re like ‘Yes!! Now all you have to do is nudge him! Just!! One!! Nudge!!!’ (My heartbeat just sped up a little writing that. Whoo that scene gets my sympathetic nervous system going.) Of course, not to mention the brilliant acting but this isn’t the time or place to discuss that. We know Juliet isn’t going to stop Romeo in time, but the movie still makes us scream in frustration. (Just!!!! One!!!! Nudge!!!)
At the time, I didn’t know anything about directors and frankly, how they could ever considering putting their names in front of the actors’ names in the roll credits when clearly the actors were the ones who did all the work. (I was 12.) Later on, I realized there was so much a director does other than tell the actors when to start and end.
Just going to put this out there, Baz Luhrman’s life is art. His Wikipedia page makes me emotional. His parents were involved in dance and film and he performed theater in school. In college, he met his wife (Catherine Martin, who is also amazing. She has like five Oscars just from costume and set designing!!) whom he works together with on every single project. (They’re the ultimate power couple.) Everything he’s directed (and she’s costume-designed) has like at least 5 awards.
/But why haven’t I ever heard of him?/
The reasons for that are:
He does stage more than screen.
He’s only made five movies in total (all of them very well-known), from 1992~2001, 2008, and 2013, which is why wee young millennials don’t really know about him. (I’m not making a generalization here, just that most of my millennial peers don’t really know about movies made prior to 2000 excluding Star Wars and Indiana Jones.)
He doesn’t make movies to target the general mass.
By general mass, I mean little kids and little kids’ parents. And by little kids I also mean teenagers.
I need more peers to talk to about his brilliance, which is why I am roping all y’all in with me.
When Baz uses these well-known stories with famous, obvious endings, he has this amazing ability to make you forget what the whole story was about, like /Romeo + Juliet/ and /The Great Gatsby/.
In movies that don’t have a highly publicized ending, like /Moulin Rouge!/, he gives you the ending. The opening scene is literally the main character typing away at his typewriter as he declares: ‘My lover, Satine, is dead.’ It’s not even a spoiler. That’s the opening scene. That leaves you sort of shocked and frankly, offended. What movie starts off by telling you one half of the two main characters are going to die? You scoff at the director for being so stupid and continue to watch. As you watch a narcoleptic Argentinian fall through the ceiling and the cast made up of said Argentinian, a dwarf dressed as a nun, a heavily made-up Faramir, two musicians dressed like pilgrims, and the main character perform a wildly disorganized version of “The Sound of Music,” your mind has shifted to ‘Hah, what was the director thinking’ to ‘This is the weirdest thing I’ve seen in my life. How did they even get the copyright?’ and when Satine, the goddess, is introduced in an also wild and ridiculous rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,’ you have completely forgotten the fact that she will have to meet a tragic demise.
Got a little carried away there, /Moulin Rouge/ is one of my favorite movies and talking about the hectic opening scene gets me hyped up.
I could go on for days about Baz and his comical intros and his transitions and how all his films are similar to each other and how all the characters have archetypes and how he uses symbolism and foreshadowing and the parallels (the Parallels!) but I’ll keep that to myself and Tumblr. (I have a document on my laptop titled “Baz Luhrmann: The Ultimate Sadist.” Come talk to me if you wanna see it.) The second portion of this article will be about /The Get Down./
I was actually writing about /The Get Down/ and a couple Luhrmann movies on my summer to-do list article, but I accidentally wrote like a page’s worth of Luhrmann praise and decided to make it a separate article.
Baz Luhrmann and Pulitzer Award-winning Stephen Adly Guirgis (his twitter gives me life) teamed up with some rappers who were active during the creation of hip hop to create /The Get Down./
The first thought you may have is, what is the get down? What is a get down? It’s not properly explained until a couple episodes in, but apparently it’s the part of a song in between verses where there’s a good, strong beat. Think of a non-rap song with a good, strong beat. I’m gonna think of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, the one used in Sherlock, and around the 3 minute mark, there’s a short drum solo bit. DJs in the 70s would take two records of a song, find that spot, and play just that part alternating the records on a turntable. The beat would be infinite and an MC would rhyme over it. Grandmaster Flash coined the term ‘the get down’ and now there’s a show named after it.
In 1977, DJs, dancers, wordsmiths (rappers), and graffiti artists were putting together the urban subculture of hip hop. The show is placed right in the middle of all of it, in Bronx, NY. The story is centered around Zeke and his friends, his struggle to become someone in a white world, keep his music going, and get his girl. We also alternately get a present-day Zeke performing to a crowd, played by a Nas-dubbed Daveed Diggs, occasionally doing recaps and foreshadowings. There’s minimal death considering this is Baz Luhrmann-made.
Ezekiel “Zeke” “Mr. Books” Figuero: The Wordsmith. Lil pouty fluffy boy with questionable sideburns and the world’s worst pencil grip, that boy’s gonna get carpal tunnel like yesterday. In love with the pastor’s daughter, Mylene. Is a genius with words. 1/5 of the Get Down Brothers.
Mylene Cruz: the butterscotch princess with the big disco dream and the voice of an angel. Her father doesn’t let her sing the “devil’s music.” Has two great girlfriends, Yolanda and Regina, who sing backup.
Shaolin Fantastic: Not Asian. Drug dealer/graffiti artist/DJ whose true passion is to DJ like his idol, Grandmaster Flash. Super extra. His red pumas are always spotless. Problematic. 1/5 of the Get Down Brothers.
Marcus “Dizzee” Kipling: Graffiti artist who goes by the name of Rumi 411, who also happens to be Dizzee’s top hat wearing alien alter ego. The most artistic out of all of them, often misunderstood. Has a preference to people named “Thor.” Has the fluffiest hair of them all. 1/5 of the Get Down Brothers.
Ronald “Ra-Ra” Kipling: The oracle, the guru, the all seeing eye. Has the most morality and voice of reason out of all of them. Constantly makes Star Wars references. Can rap really fast. Looks out for all his brothers, including Zeke and Shao. 1/5 of the Get Down Brothers.
Miles “Boo-Boo” Kipling: Sings like the Jackson 5. Breaks out into dance whenever he can. Also problematic. Always sings that he gets all the ladies but can’t actually. Youngest but loudest. 1/5 of the Get Down Brothers.
Francisco “Papa Fuerte” Cruz: Mylene’s uncle. Also sort of everyone’s uncle. Has all the power and genuinely cares about his people in the Bronx, trying to get them homes and opportunities.
Part 2 gets a little trippier with the introduction of angel dust, aka PCP. Kids, don’t ever do hard drugs. If you’re interested in hip hop, music, poetry, bromance, sweet teen romance, vibrant cinematography, and beautiful brown babies, (*whispers*) you should watch.
i don’t think that it’s a coincidence that two of the most critically panned and slept on of netflix’s originals centre are deeply concerned with race (the get down) and queerness (also the get down, but more so sense8). like when i look at them, i don’t understand why they’ve been critically panned/ignored by the masses until i factor those things in.
they both have big name directors (baz lurhmann and the wachowskis), they both have a very strong ensemble cast and they both have large budgets that have been well spent. they both have astonishing (and very different) cinematography.
they’re panned because straight white cis people can’t empathise.
imagine if elias woke up at kollektivet all disoriented and met eskild who offered him breakfast and when elias declined, eskild told him that helping out/sheltering drunk boys who couldn’t go home was kinda his mission in life lately, so elias gratefully accepted (and when his coffee was delivered in a baz lurhmann cup, elias inevitably thought of even not realizing that the cup used to be even’s and there was a picture of even with isak in the living room)
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it — indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in.
Never knew I could feel like this. Like I’ve never seen the sky before. Want to vanish inside your kiss, every day I’m loving you more and more. Listen to my heart, can you hear it sing? Come back to me- and forgive everything. Seasons may change, winter to spring… I love you ‘til the end of time.